Retrofitting a Home With Straw Bale Construction, Part 2


| 5/1/2014 5:30:00 AM


Read "Retrofitting a Home With Straw Bale Construction, Part 1" to learn how Cadmon assessed his home for straw bale retrofitting.

Though I didn’t know exactly how, I decided that if my family and I were going to move into a 50 year-old Albuquerque house, I would substantially change it — and I would do it with straw bales. I’d pledged to make it more energy-efficient, more valuable, more aesthetically attractive. I would do it on a shoestring budget. And with my previous experience of bale construction in mind, I promised myself that I would think differently about how to do it.

Rewiring a House Yourself

First, I put my ‘rewiring-from-the-outside’ idea to the test. It proved to be even easier than I’d thought. I walked around the inside of my house with a drill, and wherever I wanted an outlet — or a light switch or wall fixture or even a hook-up for my computer — I made a small hole that punched through the thin sheetrock on the inside and the old layer of stucco on the outside. Then, I ran wires around the exterior of the house, and as I pushed a loop of those wires through the holes I’d made, an electrician-friend quickly placed an electrical box on the inside of each loop and attached the plug or the switch to it.

The work was easily completed in a couple of weekends, there was only a bit of patching around the new outlets to be done (and some sweeping up, which my awe-struck children happily did as they watched their new rooms get all the outlets they needed for their electronics), and I knew the exterior wires I’d just run would get covered by the bales.  Once my friend had connected the wires to the main electrical panel, I had a newly-rewired house, accomplished at a fraction of the cost it would otherwise have been.

Doing the Straw Bale Retrofit

Next came the main work: setting the straw bales. I had the advantage of having worked with straw bales before, and I’d put up privacy walls about 8 feet tall. But here I was looking at a two-story house and I faced unknown questions.



Would 20 feet of straw bales stacked on top of each other just crush the bottom bales? What would happen when I came to window openings, especially ones I wanted to make bigger?  How could I attach the straw bales to the existing structure so they wouldn’t peel off in some windstorm? And what sort of a foundation would the bales need to rest on?

tallgrassvernacular
1/10/2019 12:53:37 PM

From the brief description and the photos, it looks as if you didn't create an air gap between the previous house sheathing and the strawbales. I wonder how this has held up to moisture in the last few years, especially with a cement based stucco. Any thoughts on the longevity of this style retrofit? Seems too good to be true.


tallgrassvernacular
1/10/2019 12:52:12 PM

It appears from the short discussion and photos that you didn't leave an airgap inbetween the bales and the previous wall sheathing. In addition to your cement based stucco, have you experienced any moisture problems in the years following this article? It seems to good to be true. Thanks for any insight!


tallgrassvernacular
1/10/2019 12:52:11 PM

From the brief description and the photos, it looks as if you didn't create an air gap between the previous house sheathing and the strawbales. I wonder how this has held up to moisture in the last few years, especially with a cement based stucco. Any thoughts on the longevity of this style retrofit? Seems too good to be true.




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